El Mezcal employee accuses eatery of failing to pay him adequate wages

By The Madison County Record | Apr 1, 2014

A former waiter at a Mexican restaurant has filed suit against the eatery, alleging he was not paid for work he performed and was fired after complaining about it.

Carlos Olvera filed suit March 24 in the Madison County Circuit Court against Carlin Restaurant LLC, doing business as  El Mezcal Mexican Restaurant, Robert Gonzalez and Susan Gonzalez.

According to the complaint, Olvera began working for defendant El Mezcal Mexican Restaurant in 2006. During the first three years of his employment, Olvera was not paid any wages, according to the complaint.

The plaintiff was given paychecks, but was required by the defendants to endorse his paychecks and return the checks to the defendants, the suit states. The defendants allowed the plaintiff to keep most of the money the plaintiff earned in tips, but required him to pay approximately $12 total per day to the busboys. The defendant Roberto Gonzalez told the plaintiff he and the other waiters paid the busboys' wages.

Beginning in 2009 and continuing through 2013, Olvera was paid $4.95 per hour and was allowed to keep a majority of his tips, the complaint says. However, he was required to deposit $6 per day Sunday through Thursday and $7 on Friday and Saturday shifts into the restaurant's cash register, Olvera claims. He was also forced to continue giving the busboys $12 per day, according to the complaint.

Although Olvera typically worked about 42 hours per week at the restaurant from 2010 until 2013, he was only paid for 36 hours of work maximum, the suit states.

Upset by the way he was allegedly being treated, Olvera filed a complaint with the Illinois Department of Labor, claiming they were unlawfully underpaying him, the complaint says. In 2011, the Department of Labor investigated the complaint, and in 2012, Olvera began to help other workers also file complaints, he claims.

In November, the Gonzalezes fired Olvera.

In his complaint, Olvera asks the court to prohibit the defendant from violating the Illinois Minimum Wage Law. He also seeks compensatory damages of more than $225,000, plus attorneys fees, punitive damages of more than $75,000 and other relief the court deems just. He is being represented by Lee W. Barron and William D. Buchanan of Alton.

Madison County Circuit Court case number 14-L-458.

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